Why Apple and Facebook Will Make Peace Over Ping

Last Updated Sep 3, 2010 12:06 PM EDT

Apple (APPL) launched Ping Wednesday, a social network within iTunes. The service was supposed to integrate with Facebook, but stopped working within a few hours. Multiple sources are now reporting that Apple and Facebook couldn't agree on terms for Ping. But the pair have too much at stake not to work this out in short order.

When Ping premiered users could sign in through Facebook Connect, making it easy to find their friends and start sharing information about their music taste and purchases. But that function stopped working, apparently because Facebook blocked Apple's access to their public API. In response, Apple removed the Facebook connect feature from Ping. Ding! Round one: Fight!

This scenario has played out before. Back in June Facebook briefly allowed and then blocked Twitter's access to the same API. It's an issue of scale. Most of the companies that hook up to Facebook in this way don't have millions of very active users.

The NYT quotes sources at Facebook saying that "Ping had the potential to send so much traffic Facebook's way and cause 'site stability' and 'infrastructure' problems." In response, Steve Jobs said the arrangement Facebook wanted to put in place was "onerous."

So far Facebook has only released a boilerplate response, "We're working with Apple to resolve this issue." Substitute Twitter for Apple, and that's word for word what they said two months ago. Except that Facebook and Twitter never worked things out.

Things will be different with Apple, because both sides have more to gain. Facebook and Twitter have pretty redundant functionality, and while it's nice for people to be able to integrate the services, neither company really gets anything new out of the deal.

In the case of Ping, Apple is trying to breathe life into a new social network. Facebook Connect adds energy and ease to this process. In return, Facebook gets access to a treasure trove of data about users purchases of music, movies, apps and books. Zuckerberg and Jobs are both passionate, occasionally obstinate CEOs, but expect these two to kiss and make up before the month is out.

Image from user Dave Fayram
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  • Ben Popper

    Ben Popper writes at the intersection of culture and technology. His work has been published in the NY Times, Washington Post, Fast Company, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic and many others. He lives at www.benpopper.com.

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